Swale House Refurbishment
There will be a powerpoint presentation for this item.
The Cabinet Member for Economy and Property, the Chief Financial Officer and the Head of Property Services have been invited to attend.
Powerpoint presentation published 25 February 2021.
The Chairman welcomed the Cabinet Member for Economy and Property, the Chief Financial Officer and the Head of Property Services to the meeting.
The Cabinet Member for Economy and Property gave a presentation on the refurbishment of Swale House which focused on the following themes: this is our challenge; what have we been doing; funding position; proposed works; and the next steps. The key objections for the project were: to contribute towards the delivery of the Climate and Ecological Emergency Action Plan by creating a low carbon building; to create a modern and efficient working environment for the organisation, and; to support the Council’s Economic Improvement Plan and Recovery Plan by providing opportunities for businesses to locate at Swale House.
The Cabinet Member for Economy and Property said that a report would be considered by Cabinet on 17 March 2021 to agree funding for the first phase of work which it was hoped would be carried out summer 2021.
In the debate that followed, Members asked questions and raised points including:
· Air-conditioning should be considered a priority;
· surprised that air-conditioning was not included given the issues in the council chamber during periods of extreme weather;
· did the £200,000 for internal alterations include security doors?;
· was the intention to let a whole floor of Swale House out?;
· how was the figure of £23m calculated for a new building?:
· the market for office space had changed greatly since the Covid-19 pandemic and it would be better to wait until the full effects of it were known before commencing work;
· Scrutiny Committee would require regular updates and details of costs involved for each phase;
· would like a breakdown of the £23m new build figure;
· needed to consider the ‘bigger picture’ and what was the Council’s vision regarding Swale House and considered it was not in the town centre;
· needed to consider the requirements of the Council;
· should look at providing a smaller building unit outside of the town centre; and
· the Council should explore whether planning mechanisms such as Community Infrastructure Levy payments could help to fund a new building unit;
The Cabinet Member for Economy and Property confirmed that air-conditioning would not be installed and the proposals included replacement double-glazed windows with solar control film added to south facing windows. Officers were also currently looking at insulation and boilers and that would be part of phase II of the refurbishment. The improvements to the wi-fi in the building would enable flexible working for employees of Swale Borough Council and tenants. She confirmed that security doors were included in the internal alterations costing and it was intended to let a whole floor of Swale House.
In response to comments from a Member, the Cabinet Member for Economy and Property explained that officers had considered the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on office based working and the internal changes would be considered as part of Phase II.
The Cabinet Member for Economy and Property said that the proposals helped to make the Council 38% carbon neutral and confirmed that they were hoping to strengthen the roof of Swale House so that solar panels could be provided. The Head of Property Services stated that they had explored installing air source heat pumps but they would be problematic to install into an old building and would not be value for money and more cost effective ways were being explored.
There was some discussion about the costings for a new building and how the figure of £23m been calculated? Some Members considered that the possibility of a new building should be explored further. The Cabinet Member for Economy and Property stated that a breakdown of all figures would be included in the report to Cabinet and she spoke about the positive aspects of Swale House, including its location near to public transport. The Chief Financial Officer said that there simply was not the funding available for the Council to consider a new building.
A Member asked what the average number of desks were in Swale House and whether any interest had been received in renting? The Cabinet Member for Economy and Property stated that there was currently 300 desk space available and they had received enquiries to rent. She explained that officers had sought advice on the type of office space most required and small office space was the most popular on a small term lease. However the Council would be flexible and accommodate larger office areas if required. The Chief Financial Officer stated that they were liaising with the Council’s Economic Development Unit about costs for renting.
The Chairman thanked the Cabinet Member for Economy and Property, the Chief Financial Officer and Head of Property for attending the meeting.
The Chairman suggested that the Committee receive a quarterly update report. Members agreed that in future the Chairman and Cabinet Member for Economy and Property would liaise about anything urgent that may need to be considered by the Committee.
(1) That the presentation be noted.
(2) That the Committee receive quarterly updates on the Swale House Refurbishment, and the Cabinet Member for Economy and Property to liaise with the Chairman about anything major that may need to be considered by the Committee.